John Lafia, co-screenwriter of Child’s Play and director of The Blue Iguana and Man’s Best Friend, has died. According to Variety, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office confirmed that Lafia, who named the vengeful doll at the center of the Child’s Play franchise, died by suicide on April 29. He was 63.
In a statement shared with Variety by Lafia’s family, his Child’s Play collaborator Don Mancini said, “We’re devastated to hear of the passing of our friend John Lafia. He was a crucial part of the ‘Chucky’ family from the very beginning. He co-wrote the original Child’s Play script along with director Tom Holland and myself, and John directed Child’s Play 2—the consensus favorite film among Chucky fans. John was an incredibly generous artist. He let me tag along with him to every meeting, and shadow him on set; he taught me more about filmmaking during the production of that movie than several semesters in film school. John was also one of the most naturally curious and constantly creative people I ever met, someone who was always taking pictures, and jotting down ideas.”
Born in 1957, Lafia, a graduate from UCLA and underground musician, made his way to Cannes in 1988 with the crime movie, The Blue Iguana, which he wrote and directed in addition to producing the soundtrack. That same year, the Saturn Award-winning Child’s Play hit theaters, tapping into audiences’ fear of dolls to gross more than $44 million at the box office. The film, which was written by Lafia, Don Mancini, and director Tom Holland, spawned six sequels—including Child’s Play 2, which Lafia directed—a reboot and a TV series. In addition to naming Chucky, the possessed doll voiced by Brad Dourif, Lafia also gave the movie the surprisingly spine-tingling line: “Hi, I’m Chucky, wanna play?”
Lafia followed up the success of the first two Child’s Play movies with 1993's Man’s Best Friend, a horror comedy starring Ally Sheedy and Lance Henriksen that he wrote and directed. Though Man’s Best Friend didn’t make the same splash as the Child’s Play franchise, Lafia ventured into new forms of media, directing the live-action video game Corpse Killer for Sega and Digital Pictures in 1994 and the interactive featurette Bombeister in 1995. Both projects combined computer technology and live-action images.
Lafia worked steadily in TV in the ensuing decades; his credits include episodes of Babylon 5, Freddy’s Nightmares, and The Dead Zone. In 2004, Lafia directed and co-wrote the disaster film, 10.5, which aired as a miniseries on NBC, where it drew 20 million viewers across two nights to become the highest-rated miniseries of the year, landing a spot in the top five miniseries of the 2000s. Lafia also wrote and directed the follow-up, 10.5: Apocalypse.
Lafia is survived by his former wife, Beverly, and his children, Tess and Kane.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.